PPC pros can now leverage new ad formats like RSAs to further boost auction-time relevance.

Frederick Vallaeys on August 19, 2019 at 8:00 am

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Google recently announced that same-meaning close variants will soon apply to phrase match and modified broad match keywords. These match types join exact match, which was the first to start showing ads for close variants with the same meaning in September 2018.

I’ve shared what I believe are the three most important things to do ahead of this round of changes: automate bid management, enable a nonlast-click attribution model, and set up an automated monitoring system that checks close variants. You can even grab my script to automate the monitoring process.

But will Google’s change to how keyword match types work have any impact on other ways PPC accounts are managed? Or even more so, does this recent change obviate single keyword ad groups, commonly known as SKAGs? I’ll explain my reasoning in this post, but if you’re strapped for time, the answer I believe is that SKAGs will continue to play a useful role in boosting Quality Score, thereby reducing CPCs, and improving performance of PPC accounts.

What are SKAGs

SKAG stands for ‘single keyword ad group’. As the name suggests, it’s an ad group that has only one keyword in it, and often that one keyword will be an exact match keyword. For the purpose of this post, I am defining a SKAG exactly that way: an ad group with exactly one exact match keyword. This structure became popular as a way for advertisers to get more control over their accounts.

How SKAGs provide more control

Prior to the introduction of ‘close variants’ in 2014, using an exact match keyword meant the user had to type in exactly the same thing as the advertiser’s keyword in order for the ad to be eligible to appear. Thus by having only a single exact match keyword in an ad group, it meant the advertiser knew exactly what the user searched and so they could write a super targeted and relevant ad for that user’s search. 

SKAGs boost relevance and Quality Score

Having this control over ad relevance helped advertisers boost their Quality Score (QS). By focusing on a single keyword at a time, advertisers could write more compelling ads, thereby boosting CTR and hence achieving a higher QS.

And as I’ve written before, QS is a big part of how Google determines the Ad Rank and can make clicks cheaper when the QS increases.

“Ad Rank is a calculation of max CPC, quality score (expected CTR, ad relevance, landing page experience), the expected impact of ad extensions and ad formats as well as other contextual factors like location and device. It determines if your ad is eligible to show and where it appears on the page relative to other ads.”

– Google

What makes close variants the enemy of SKAGs

The meaning of match types has been radically redefined by close variants where exact match keywords no longer mean that the user’s query must be an exact letter-for-letter match to the advertiser’s keyword for an ad to show.

Advertisers can no longer write an ad that is guaranteed to show for exactly one query. So it seems that the point of doing SKAGs has been made impossible by Google. But while control has been reduced, SKAGs still help indicate advertiser preferences and hence can still boost QS and reduce PPC costs.

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